Coordination and Competition: Germany’s Solar Industry and the Search for a New Energy Order
Modern energy markets are in turbulence. Oil crises, nuclear disasters, disillusionment with fusion technology, and the awareness that burning fossil fuels is damaging the climate have created a socio-technical, political, and economic supply gap. There are no uncontroversial technological shortcuts for re-forming modern societies' energy supply, nor is there consensus on how to assess prospective energy systems. Empirically, the project departs from the widespread realization that a new energy order will be less the result of technical-bureaucratic decision-making than of contentious coordination between industrial, political, scientific, and other societal actors. How do market actors cope with these intricate processes and influence the socio-technical and political paths taken? The project explores these questions using an in-depth longitudinal case study of Germany’s solar sector. Conceptually, it contributes to a sociological perspective on economic competition. Seldom limited to firms’ struggles for positions in ready-made market orders, competition often emerges from contentious socio-technical, political, institutional, and cultural market structures. How can we theorize corporate engagement in these processes, how do they affect industrial organization, and how do they fit into a "social order of markets" approach? Project duration: October 2010 to December 2013.